Facebook introduces Skype video calling

IDG News Service - Facebook on Wednesday announced a new video chat capability it will roll out in conjunction with Skype, in what the social-networking giant said is the first of many announcements of new applications to come in the next couple of months.

Users will be able to click a button in Facebook to call a friend. If the friend does not already have the plugin required for video chat, the friend will see a pop-up to download the plugin. That download should just take 10 or 20 seconds, said Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's CEO, during a webcast press conference on Wednesday.

"This is possible because the social infrastructure exists," he said. "The system knows we're connected and we have the pipe open between us so new applications can flow between us."

Zuckerberg described Facebook as a platform that allows these kinds of new applications to be easily used. He also sought to set Facebook apart from competitors because Facebook plans to partner with companies like Skype that are focused on specific technologies.

"We want to leave all the applications to independent entrepreneurs and companies that are going to be best in class at building these things," he said. "That's a different strategy than other major Internet companies out there who try to do everything themselves."

That may have been a dig at Google, which recently launched its own social-networking service that includes features primarily built by Google.

In addition to video chat, Facebook also said it plans improvements to its group chat function and will roll out a new design for its text chat interface.

Zuckerberg also confirmed that there are 750 million Facebook users. Future growth, however, won't be measured by number of users but by how much people share on Facebook, he said. Currently, users share 4 billion things every day, he said. Facebook plans to continue to announce new features that will encourage people to share even more in the future, he said.

Nancy Gohring covers mobile phones and cloud computing for The IDG News Service. Follow Nancy on Twitter at @idgnancy. Nancy's e-mail address is Nancy_Gohring@idg.com

Reprinted with permission from IDG.net. Story copyright 2010 International Data Group. All rights reserved.

4 video editors for tech-savvy business users

Computerworld - Most video editing suites are aimed at either the consumer or the video pro. But what about business users, who fall squarely in the middle of these two categories?

Today's midlevel editing packages offer a good deal of flexibility and power when it comes to working with videos. In fact, features that used to be available only in professional editing software a few years ago are now commonplace, like the ability to remove jitter from footage.

Of course, professional-level video editors provide support for professional-grade cameras and other hardware, and they allow for more detailed tweaking during the editing process.

But midlevel applications offer ease of use, a valuable commodity for business users who may not have a great deal of experience with video. These users might need that much more guidance in the form of tutorials or walk-throughs (at least at first), but they also need a program that can offer them a fair amount of power and not be hidebound by arbitrary restrictions often imposed on beginning users by "starter" software.

For this roundup, I tested four major prosumer-level video editing packages to see how suitable they are for business users who need sophisticated functionality combined with ease of use: Adobe Premiere Elements 9 Plus, Corel VideoStudio Pro X4, CyberLink PowerDirector 9 Ultra64, and Sony Vegas Movie Studio HD Platinum 10.0. I looked at these programs from several perspectives: how easy they were to start using, what kinds of editing-assistance features they offered for nontechnical users, and what kind of "canned" content (stock footage, templates) was packaged with each.

I ran each program on a system equipped with a quad-core Intel Core 2 Q6600 with 4GB of RAM, running the 64-bit edition of Windows 7 and using a dual-GPU Nvidia GeForce 9800 GX2. With each program, I imported video from cameras that generated .MOV-format H.264 files.

Note: Of the four applications, only Adobe Premiere Elements offers a Mac version.

These midlevel packages have some rather sophisticated features that you may want to look for. One that's quite useful, especially if you're dealing with footage created on a less-than-professional camcorder, is the stabilization function. This takes jittery imagery and automatically removes a fair amount of the shaking. However, to make this happen, a certain amount of picture information is trimmed from the edges of the frame, and the remainder is made larger to compensate for the lost edges. The more shaking there is in the video, the more trimming that's required.

Another feature can be used to add interest to a video: It automatically edits clips together using a given visual theme or by following certain parameters about the content of the footage. Adobe's InstantMovie feature does this; ditto for CyberLink PowerDirector's Magic Movie Wizard. This feature seems mostly useful for generating filler montages where dialogue isn't crucial, since these auto-generated edits can be rather patchy and arbitrary.

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C-Suite: Tony Fisher on Target coming to Canada

Target Corp. is giving Canadian journalists a preview of what’s to come when the popular department store opens up to 150 stores in 2013. Hollie Shaw talked with Tony Fisher, president of Target Canada, about which Zellers locations to take over and hurdles to entering the Canadian market.

Q: There is a high brand awareness among consumers for Target in Canada. As you assess the market are you finding any challenges to opening?

A: We can’t assume that everything we do here in the U.S. will translate completely to Canada. We are confident that our brand will translate. We will be looking to understand the local nuances. That will be very important. I think the merchandising team has a lot to learn about what is relevant at each individual local level.

Q: What is the most surprising thing you have found out about the Canadian retail market in the last five months?

A: The diversity and inclusivity within certain pockets. Coming out of [Toronto's Beaches neighbourhood] you’ll see Greek town, with some storefront signs that are in Greek. You don’t see a lot of that here [in the U.S.]. Another thing that surprised me is the expansive landscape with surprisingly different demographics and how we understand this massive landscape form coast to coast.

Q: What are the differences between Canadian and American consumers?

A: Starting with similarities, there is a focus on value; when I think about ‘expect more, pay less’, our brand promise, I think that will resonate very well in Canada. The differences at that local level in particular are really what we have to understand over the next two years.

Q: Do you find confusion in the marketplace about whether you are taking over Zellers, as opposed to certain Zellers leases?

A: Our relationship with Zellers was purely a real estate transaction. Zellers will continue to operate after this is all said and done, we are not acquiring their business, their supply chain infrastructure, their headquarters or their technology. What we bring to Canada will be uniquely Target.

Q: You have said that you might select some Zellers sites that will not become Target stores.

A: We wanted to look at the top 220 sites to make sure we found the ones that made the most strategic and financial value to Target. We hope that the majority of those are going to be of strategic and financial value for us to operate a retail store in. [If not], there are a variety of other options; maybe it’s subletting to another retailer, maybe it is giving it back to the landlord. There could be a number of options to generate strategic and financial value out of those stores without converting them to Target stores.

Q: Are you setting up distribution centres to accommodate food as well as your other merchandise?

A: We are very early in our distribution strategy. We know that the right supply chain infrastructure is going to be critical for us to deliver the strategy in Canada. It might include a combination of what is called ambient supply chain and a temperature-controlled supply chain [with cooling trucks for perishable food]. We haven’t made a decision [either way]. Food is a critical component of our strategy in the U.S., but it is also something that drives guests into the store [in the U.S.]. How we utilize food might be different in Canada than in the U.S. What we do in Canada has yet to be determined. We first have to understand the role of food in the competitive marketplace as well as what our guests want.